Comparative research in both the social sciences and the humanities pertaining to the field of migration studies remains scant. In this dissertation I address this dearth of scholarship in an examination of the affinities and contrasts between the experiences of the Irish migrant in Britain and the North African/Senegalese migrant in France through close readings of six narratives, both filmic and literary.I focus on representations of the migrant figure in the time period spanning the 1920s to the 1980s. The first two chapters address the immigrant experience from a communal perspective while the final two chapters deal with individual migrant figures, both male and female.
There is a movement from the general day-to-day life of the immigrant family and their interactions with the host society and public space to the more impersonal institutionalized setting of the hostel in which there is little contact with the outside world accentuating isolation for the male immigrants in both Britain and France and even less with the most intimate space of all, the home, but with the added complexity of homeplace as workplace for female immigrants, work abroad turns out to be an even more depersonalized environment for the female immigrant. I analyze the migrant’s engagement with space in the host society with the lingering backdrop of home as not only physical but also psychological space.
In Chapter One I approach the complexities of stereotypes when the immigrant community subject to prejudice in the host society displays behavior that confirms the grounds for some of this prejudice. In Chapter Two I focus on the French post-war “bidonville” (shantytown) situation through the lens of film. I address upward mobility in both chapters. In Chapter Three I look at the space of the immigrant hostel/foyer in terms of “non-place.” In Chapter Four I explore the transplantation of the colonial paradigm from the indigenous society to the metropolitan centers of empire, as lived by the domestic servant figure. I analyze impediments to integration for the immigrant throughout the dissertation.
Despite the characters often negative experience of displacement I illuminate how British/French mainstream culture is itself “fragmented” and altered by the introduction of Irish/ African minority cultures into its realm.